Networking only works if you do. Wow! Those are some pretty harsh words…but, it’s true. Being the owner of a successful networking and business development organization, I feel I have some insight into this statement. There have been many times where members have come to me in frustration stating “Networking doesn’t work!” Quite frankly, I love it when people say that to me. It gives me the opportunity to start a conversation…
Let’s go back in time 6 years. I had just moved to a new town and had no roots and an online business. It would have been extremely easy for me to continue my online business in the comforts of my own home, in a new town. But, working from home, in an online business is isolating, and I had an overwhelming need to feel connected to the community that I lived in. After all, I wanted to know things like which bank was the best bank in town, which pediatrician was best for my daughter, where should I go to get my haircut, and of course, where should I go to get my nails done! Being new to town, I didn’t know any of that. I didn’t even know the names of the roads in my town. Since I needed all of these things and I desired to have some IRL (in real life) clients, I decided to start a networking group – a group of people I could count on to steer me in the right direction.
Once I determined the structure of what I desired in a networking meeting, I marketed it and promoted it…online of course! When the first IRL meeting took place, 7 people attended. I took the time to get to know each of them well. They were my first friends in my new town. Our original networking group was small but tight. We got to know each other very well. Over time our relationships grew. Then stuff began happening. Referrals started coming my way. You see, during all that time I spent getting to know my networking friends, they began to really get to know me and they really understood who I was as a person, the service I was providing, and they got a picture of who my perfect client was. Once they understood all of that about me, it was easy for them to tell people about me. Because of the relationships, I built in my original networking group, to this day, I have never actively advertised my business locally. All of my clients are a result of by-word-of-mouth recommendations. That is pretty powerful.
Going back to the original statement of “Networking doesn’t work” leads me to some very pointed questions. There are certain things that must take place in order for networking to work. In fact, if you are going to be part of a networking organization, it is going to take some effort and some work in very specific areas! In my mind, it really comes down to 3 things in order for networking to work:
Here’s what I mean…
In order for networking to work, you have to have the right people in the right networking organization, at the right time. What does that mean? Well, you have to have someone who is willing, ready, and able to get involved in order to represent your product or service appropriately.
The right person for networking is someone who will show up to meetings consistently, on time, and prepared to meet others. Someone who is chronically late, inconsistent in their attendance, who doesn’t get involved with the group and its members, and doesn’t schedule one-to-one meetings sends a negative message and paints a dismal picture about your business. Think about it…Does that sound like a business that you want to refer a paying customer to? After all, your reputation is on the line too!
The qualities of an ideal candidate for a networking meeting is someone who is:
- Friendly and likable
- Understands the concept of networking
- Approaches networking with an attitude of “how can I help?” and “how can I help to connect people together?” rather than trying to sell a room
Is the product or service viable? Meaning, does the product or service your business represents solve a problem, entertains, is a solution, or is beneficial in some way, shape, or form? If the answer is yes, does your representative understand the product or service well enough to represent it adequately?
If the answer to the product questions posed above is “yes!,” the final thing to determine is if your representative can present your product, service, and company to the networking organization. Is your representative trained well enough to explain your product or service and answer questions surrounding it? Are they able to break down your product or service in such a way that those listening are able to:
- Understand what the product or service does
- Identify what makes your product or service different from your competitors
- Determine who your target market, who your ideal referral is, and actively keep an eye out for those people to refer you to
- Know what to listen for in order to refer your business out
- Feel confident that your representative and your business will take good care of anyone referred to you
Many times, after discussing the “people, product, presentation” formula with those who are dissatisfied with networking, we determine there was one portion of the formula that needed some assistance or extra attention.
If your networking efforts aren’t where you would like them to be, investigate the 3 “Ps,” people, product, presentation. Ask some of your fellow networkers where some of your gaps may be. Supportive conversation from fellow networkers can really help you position yourself for future success!
Have a profitable week!